Shrubs popular in ornamental gardens – Small overview

Hedges and shrubs are an indispensable part of an ornamental garden. Here you will find some species, whether evergreen, deciduous, flowering or fruiting.

ornamental garden
© pia-pictures –

Shrubs in the ornamental garden are like the salt in the soup. They give your garden structure. They provide with their loose growth for alternation. And for colourful flower beds they are the perfect backdrop in the background.

The different colours and shapes of the leaves, different flowering times, varying colours and scents of the flowers and the variety of fruits indicate a large number of these ornamental trees. You can choose from weak-growing, small shrubs as well as ornamental woody plants that can grow up to 2.5 metres or that grow far larger.

Most species are cut compatible and can be cut to the desired height. Thus, many shrubs are also suitable as hedges. Some of these ornamental perennials will be presented to you in four sections.

Evergreen Leaf Decoration Bushes

If all the other shrubs have already shed their leaves, flowers and fruit, then the evergreen ones with their permanent leaves bring colour and structure to your garden. How about one of the following plants?

❶ Box Tree

Botanical: Buxus sempervirens

Boxwood ornamental garden
© Stefan Körber –

The classic among the evergreen leaf ornamental shrubs is the box tree. You can use it for many purposes. Do you want to use it for the border? Then it is best to use a weakly growing variety. Recommended are “Suffruticosa” and “Blauer Heinz”.

You can also create higher hedges with boxwood. You can choose from strongly growing varieties such as “Rotundifolia” and “Handsworthiensis” or the wild species “Buxus sempervirens”.

The specific choice of variety also applies to the contour cut. Suffruticosa” or “Green Gem” are ideal for small balls. For larger sculptures you are well advised with higher varieties. If you opt for the colorful boxwood, you must choose a protected location. These varieties are somewhat sensitive to frost.

❷ holly

Botanical: Ilex

Ornamental garden holly
© valentino cazzanti –

Well over 400 species belong to the family of holly. However, from this family circle only a very small number is actually suitable for the ornamental garden.

How about the holly “Heckenfee”? It is a very hardy variety and is particularly suitable for the use of hedges. But also planted solitary, it is an eye-catcher in summer as well as in winter. With its dark green and shiny leaves and the delightful red berries in autumn, holly attracts attention.

Within 10 years it reaches a maximum height of 3 metres. Only half as big is the broadly upright growing variety “Blue Angel”. However, it carries only female flowers. However, it is suitable as a preplant for the male and fruitless variety “Blue Prince”.

❸ Snowball with wrinkled leaves

Botanical: Viburnum rhytidophyllum

Decorative garden snowball
© simona –

The narrow, dark green leaves of the wrinkly snowball are strongly structured, wrinkly and hairy on the underside. For an evergreen tree, this snowball is incredibly robust and hardy.

Its flat white panicles appear from May to June. In autumn the first red fruits follow, which later turn black.

Before you decide on this shrub, you should consider that the fine leaf hairs can trigger allergies. Also include the wrinkly leaves in your decision. Some find them ugly, others are particularly enthusiastic about this leaf structure. The shrub is particularly effective in combination with other evergreen shrubs such as holly, mahonia, boxwood or conifers.

❹ Japanese Aucube

Botanical: Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’

Decorative garden - Japanese Aucube
© simona –

The Japanese Aucube, also known as butcher’s palm, is a thick shoot shrub with evergreen, fleshy leaves. The variety ‘Varigata’ has irregularly pronounced leaves, which are yellow marked and speckled.

Because of the large, fleshy leaves, the Aucube is to be settled on a semi-shady location. Somewhat sheltered from the wind if possible. The plant is particularly present in combination with other evergreen woody plants such as cherry laurel or lavender heather.

A further contrast is provided by the bright red fruits that form in late summer and remain on the shrub until next spring.

Care must be taken with the low winter hardiness. In dry and cold regions a winter protection is advisable. In order to promote winter hardiness, the butcher’s palm should be given a place that is as sheltered and semi-shade to light shade as possible from the outset.

Deciduous shrubs

This group captivates with its virgin fresh foliage in spring and extraordinary leaf colouring in autumn. Many of the deciduous shrubs also produce beautiful flowers and fruit. You will find an overview of four plants of this group here.

❶ Harlequin willow

Botanical: Salix integra

Harlequin willow Hakuro Nishiki
© Denis Rozhnovsky –

With its white and then pink young shoots, which look like flowers, the Harlequin willow is an extraordinary appearance. The spotted, older foliage is just as attractive. The Salix integra is a real beauty and an asset for any garden, whether as a high trunk or a shrub.

It finds an ideal location both in the sun and in bright semi-shade. The Harlequin willow is also frugal in its soil requirements. It thrives excellently on a sandy to medium-heavy soil with a medium nutrient content. It only needs a lot of water after planting.

The spotted leaves are a characteristic of the variety ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ and are sensitive to the sun without habituation. If the location is too dark, the leaf colours suffer.

❷ Barberry (sour thorn)

Botanical: Berberis vulgaris

Ornamental garden - Barberry Sauerdorn
© Michael Meijer –

A beautiful native shrub is available to you with the “Ordinary Barberry”. This plant is also called sourthorn or vinegar berry. The barberry can be planted as a hedge or as a single shrub.

In spring you can enjoy the yellow flowers, in autumn the shrub produces bright red berries.

Barberry does not place high demands on the location and care. Barberry species are just as undemanding as the 1.5-metre-high gold-berry ‘Aurea/Maria’ with its golden-yellow foliage. Or how about the red heckenberitze (Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea’)? Planted in hedges, this shrub provides up to 3 metres of protection against intruders.

❸ Hornbeam

Botanical: Carpinus betulus

Ornamental garden - Hornbeam

The hornbeam is known under various names. It is also called hornbeam or hagenbeam. It is ideally suited for impenetrable enclosures. It also structures your garden and gives it a classic look.

The leaves are fresh green in spring and summer. The leaves turn bright yellow in autumn and brown in winter.

Last but not least, it is these characteristics of hornbeam that make it so popular: it is frost hardy, tolerant of shade and easy to keep in shape. It is also suitable for low hedges but also for walls up to 4 metres high. This provides the best conditions for privacy and wind protection.

❹ Red-leaved bladder kidneys ‘Diabolo’ (red)

Botanical: Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’

Decorative garden bladder kidneys
© gabort –

Due to the colour intensity of the red-leaved bladder kidneys ‘Diabolo’ you can create great colour additions to green hedges in summer. Their red to reddish-brown shoots and blood-red leaves form an extraordinary contrast to the green hedges.

Pale pink umbels appear on the shrub in June and July, from which red bellows grow.

This deciduous shrub is fast-growing and easy to care for. It can grow up to 3 meters high and has an upright shrub growth. Neither the soil nor the location are more demanding. Also wind and weather can do nothing to the bladder piers. It is very robust and frost hardy.

Flowering shrubs

It is above all the flowers with their diverse shapes, colours and fragrances that make this group of ornamental shrubs so special. We have put together a selection of four flowering shrubs for you and give you a small suggestion.

❶ witch hazel

Botanical: Hamamelis

Ornamental garden - witch hazel
© Alexander –

The witch hazel belongs to the frost hardy winter bloomers. The special attraction of this wood lies in the yellow to red flowers and their unusual shapes.

The witch hazel does not make any special demands during care. You have to be patient, though, because it grows very slowly. Its growth habit is sparse and broad. It can grow up to several meters high.

For this winter-flowering shrub, it is best to choose a sunny to semi-shade location. Make sure that it is free of draughts. The witch hazel does not tolerate strong cold and draughts. The blossom only remains uniformly beautiful in mild winter weather. By the way, there are attractive varieties with different nuances in the flower colour.

❷ Splendid bell

Botanical: Enkianthus campanulatus

Decorative garden - magnificent bell
© imageBROKER –

If you want to create an ornamental garden, then you should draw the magnificent bell into the shortlist of your plants. It provides an extraordinary splendour of colour in the garden in the gloomy autumn. This attractive ornamental shrub with its yellowish-red tufts of flowers, which resemble a lily of the valley, appeals to the eye of the beholder with its large umbels and its fiery red autumn colouring.

Because of its relatively slow growth, it is particularly ideal for smaller gardens. It feels quite comfortable in the company of azaleas and rhododendrons.

However, the magnificent bell makes some demands on its location. She loves the brightness and gets along well in spring and autumn also with full sun. On hot summer days, however, it prefers a semi-shady to shady location. In any case, she wants to stand sheltered from the wind.

❸ Garden Jasmine “Snowstorm”

Botanical: Philadelphus ‘Snowstorm

ornamental garden - garden jasmine
© Olga Tkacheva –

Its wonderful white tufts of flowers and its pronounced upright growth make garden jasmine really interesting for garden lovers. Depending on the variety, its flowers can be full or unfilled.

One of the most popular varieties is ‘snowstorm’, also known as farmer’s jasmine. The abundance of flowers gives the variety its name. During the flowering period from May to early July, the ‘snow storm’ exudes a wonderful scent.

Besides, he’s fast-growing. With its very elegantly overhanging side branches, the shrub reaches a height of up to 2.5 metres. You can plant the jasmine on a fully sunny or semi-shade location. However, you should not put him completely in the shade.

❹ Wig Bush

Botanical: Cotinus coggygria

Ornamental garden - Wig bush
© League –

The visual effect of the wig bush is rather restrained in spring and summer. Its foliage is green or dark red and its flower is inconspicuous. The plant has its furious finale in autumn. The flowers then develop into pompon-like fruit clusters reminiscent of wigs. These are accompanied by an impressive autumn colouring of the leaves.

This tropical sumac plant is completely hardy and very frugal to care for.

The tiny stone fruits of the wig bush are not edible. However, the ornamental shrub makes up for this circumstance with its long, protruding hair. These surround the small fruits and give the plant its spectacular appearance in autumn.

Fruit-bearing shrubs

With their exceptional fruitiness, colour and shape of the individual fruits, the fruit bearers have qualified in this group. Until late in autumn, the fruits add colour to your garden. You can also participate in this colour palette with the following woody plants.

❶ Beautiful fruit / love pearl bush

Botanical: Callicarpa bodinieri

Ornamental garden - Love pearl bush
© hcast –

In autumn and winter, the violet pearls of the beautiful fruit, also known as the love pearl bush, are a real eye-catcher in the rather dreary winter garden. The twigs are suitable for cutting and can be used for decoration.

In summer, the fruit is attractive due to its violet flowers. So the shrub is an eye-catcher for every garden. The leaves turn yellow-red in autumn.

In winter the roots of the shrub are slightly protected with leaves, compost or mulch. In very severe frost, the shrub freezes back slightly. But he sprouts again in spring.

It is recommended that you plant two shrubs. So the ornamental shrubs can pollinate each other and carry even more “love pearls”.

❷ Amethyst Berry ‘Magic Berry

Botanical: Symphoricarpos doorenbosii ‘Magic Berry’

Decorative garden - Amethysberry
© Wouter Hagens –

With its magical appearance, the amethyst berry offers magical moments. The first magical impressions are given by the typical pale pink flowers. In a beautiful bell form they present themselves starting from June. A short time later the first magenta to scarlet berries decorate the bush.

This gorgeous shrub grows broadly upright and develops overhanging shoots. It becomes about one meter high and about the same width. A sunny to semi-shady location is ideal, otherwise the amethyst berry is rather undemanding.

You can use this shrub in many ways, for example for group planting, as a flowering hedge or as a tub plant.

❸ Pfaffenhütchen

Botanical: Euonymus europaeus

Decorative garden - Pfaffenhütchen
© M. Schuppich –

The Pfaffenhütchen is a richly branched, sparse growing wood and is suitable for every garden. As a shrub, it can grow up to three metres high uninhibited. But the Pfaffenhütchen is very cut-compatible and can be cut back to any size.

Its intense autumn colour with the bright foliage is impressive. The bizarre-looking fruits are comparable in their form to the hat of a priest. From August to October the fruits ripen.

For humans the plant is unfortunately completely poisonous, especially the seeds. However, birds are particularly fond of the fruits and seeds of this ornamental shrub.

The Pfaffenhütchen can also be planted as a hedge, but must then be pruned regularly.

❹ ornamental quince

Botanical: Chaenomeles

Ornamental garden - Ornamental quince
© Unkas Photo –

The ornamental quince originally comes from East Asia and therefore fits well to theme gardens in Chinese or Japanese style. In addition, the rose plant is an enrichment for every garden. Botanically, however, it does not belong to the quince family.

In spring, from March to April, the rich blossom in white, pink, orange or red conveys a Far Eastern charm to your garden. Its fragrant, apple-like fruits caress the garden lover in autumn and winter.

You can use the ornamental quinces as solitary plants, for greening facades and also as hedges. The wood is extremely versatile and easy to care for. The spreading shrubs are particularly frost hardy and can grow 1 to 5 metres high and 2 metres wide, depending on the species. Their fruits are edible but very hard.

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

link to Pin Oak Tree

Pin Oak Tree

Pin Oak Tree (Quercus palustris) The pin oak tree (Quercus palustris) is a plant from the genus of oak trees in the family of the beech plants (Fagaceae). In temperate latitudes, it...